Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Job Done... But Black Week Ahead?

Don't panic... but don't applaud. That's the message we should take from the Ipswich match, yet another one of those games which looks much better when you focus solely on the statistics.

Team spirit... something the lads are going to need this week

Two goals, three points, a clean sheet for the first time this season, another goal for Luke Williams, a league goal for Carayol, almost one point off the top* by the end of the day... it looks so comfortable and inspiring.

It wasn't. Jason Steele was again overworked, one-time Boro target Paul Taylor seemed to do anything but score, and Ipswich boss Paul Jewell genuinely felt aggrieved that his side didn't win the game. Add yet another confusing Mogga midfield (Leadbitter, Thomson, McEachran and Reach, but who played where? Your guess is as good as mine), the probability of loaning out the mostly excellent Curtis Main (although an unfortunate knee injury now seems to have put paid to this) and still no word on Scott McDonald, and you get plenty of ammunition for the moaners.

But all that would be demeaning especially well taken finishes by both Williams and Carayol, the fine pass by Thomson**, and an excellent debut from Andre Bikey. Even if we can't "win in style" in every single home match, there are signs that we might just have enough strength in depth to challenge the top six after all. Furthermore, to quote Mogga himself:

"If we can keep winning our home games then teams may come here a little bit negative and we may be able to score more."

More home wins will allow us to recapture, at least in part, the element of fear that clouded the opposition's minds when they journeyed to the Riverside towards the end of 1997 and throughout almost all of 1998. Back then, we almost managed a fifteen month unbeaten run in the league at home, and concluded our successful promotion campaign with ten home league and cup wins from eleven matches.

It should not be forgotten, however, that we only won one away match during the first three months of 1998... which brings me back to the present day. We were the away day kings of 2011, with twelve league wins on the road throughout the entire year... this year, we've managed just three away wins in the league.

So do you really rate our chances against Blackpool and Blackburn? I'm not sure I do, especially with Tom Ince in such excellent form, and Blackburn seemingly finding goals much easier to come by, especially away from home. That, and we'll have to play much, much better than we did against Ipswich. For all its pluses, it's not the sort of performance dreams are built upon - and we need to raise our performance levels a notch higher if we want to maintain our pre-season dreams.

Fingers crossed.

* * * * *

*Blackburn's late comeback spoiled an analogy I was about to make; remember what happened the last time we were one point off the top after a win that looked more comfortable than it was? Thank heavens expectations are lower now...

**I can hear the "Kevin Thomson's finally done something right"'s, already, but let's cut him some slack here. Mogga clearly sees value in his game, and it hasn't done any harm to our home results, has it? The catch will now be keeping him fit...

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